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Free bird talks land on local browsers

Bird observatory starts free lecture series
1104 Envirofile01 CC 1941
HOOT – Beaverhill Bird Observatory educator Mickey the Northern Saw-whet Owl made a stop at École Marie Poburan in June 2019 as part of the observatory's BirdSmart program. Mickey's human partners are offering similar bird education talks online for free starting this month. CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

Alberta researchers are bringing birds to your browser this spring through a series of free talks on bird conservation.

The Beaverhill Bird Observatory launched a free webinar series on the birds of Alberta April 9 which will run every weekday throughout April and May. The series is an online version of the BirdSmart Education Program lectures the organization typically hosts in schools. (The observatory is a bird-banding centre about 90 km east of St. Albert by Beaverhill Lake.)

Researchers at the observatory normally spend their winters touring schools to teach kids about birds and climate change, often with the help of live owls, said observatory biologist Sara Pearce Meijerink. With both schools and the observatory closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers decided to offer these talks online as a morale booster.

“It’s going to be free for people to check in and watch from their own home,” Pearce Meijerink said, and they’ll be doing it weekdays from now until the end of May.

Pearce Meijerink said the talks would be run through the Zoom platform and feature two bird experts talking about everything from owls to climate change to plastic bag pollution – all subjects that tie into the school curriculum. Guests will also get to ask questions through a chat room.

“Unfortunately, there will be no live feathered friends in our webinar,” she added – most of the observatory’s teaching animals live with seniors who are in isolation due to the global pandemic.

The coronavirus outbreak will also change how researchers study birds at the observatory later this summer, Pearce Meijerink said. Instead of netting and banding birds (which would involve passing equipment and birds between people in close quarters), researchers will do a daily bird count. The outbreak will also give researchers time to build a bigger education centre to accommodate the thousand-odd visitors they get each year.

The webinars are at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and can host up to 100 people. 

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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